Orientation: Job characteristics play a major role in shaping employees' early retirement decisions. Research purpose: The objective of this study was to examine the mechanisms through which job characteristics associate with early retirement intention, using the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model as a theoretical framework. Motivation of the study: Early retirement presents a threat to existing health and pension systems, and to organisational functioning. Therefore, it is important to examine how work-related factors contribute to early retirement decisions. Research design, approach and method: Two parallel processes were theorised to shape early retirement intention: a health impairment process (i.e. job demands → recovery need → early retirement intention) and a motivational process (i.e. job resources → work enjoyment → early retirement intention). Survey data were collected from a heterogeneous sample of 1812 older workers (age > 45). Structural equation modeling was used to test the hypotheses. Main findings: Job demands and job resources were both associated with work enjoyment, which was associated with early retirement intention. Recovery need did not add to the prediction of early retirement intention. Practical/managerial implications: To retain older workers, companies should promote work conditions and practices that keep older workers motivated. Good health may be a necessary condition for retaining older workers, but it does not appear to be a sufficient one. Contribution/value-add: The results suggest that - for early retirement intention - the motivational process is more prominent than the health impairment process.